Independent Hajj Reporters has demanded Niger state government to provide breakdown of the N1 billion it claimed it spent as subsidy for its pilgrims in 2013 Hajj exercise.
Reacting to a statement credited to the Niger state Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Alhaji Shehu Haruna, published by the Leadership, the civil society challenged the state to provide breakdown of how a whooping sum of N1 billion was spent on its pilgrims during the 2013 Hajj.
A statement issued yesterday by its national coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammed, said “our attention has been drawn to the claims by Niger state government that it spent N1billion to subsidise pilgrims during the just-concluded 2013 Hajj exercise.”
“It’s important to note that Nigerian pilgrims purchased their hajj seats as announced by National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) which covers all services enjoyed by pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. These services include Return air ticket, accommodation, transports, royalty, tents, feeding in Muna, luggage transport, among others.
“While NAHCON approved the sum of N526, 996 for minimum hajj seat, Niger state pilgrims paid N560, 250 for the same hajj seat. In essence, Niger state pilgrims paid additional N40, 000, which the state said was to take care of differentials in the cost of accommodation.”
The statement said to ensure that pilgrims were accommodated in standard hotels, NAHCON had set a benchmark of 3, 500 Saudi Riyals per pilgrim.
However, in a press conference held on January 23, 2013, the then Executive Chairman of the Commission, Engr. Mamman Mohammed, said “pilgrimage would attract a minimum fare of N560, 250 and a maximum of N661, 000.”
According to him, the difference between the state’s fares as against the amount announced by NAHCON was N40, 000 across board as additional cost for accommodation in Mecca.
The civil society said though it acknowledged that Niger, Borno and FCT provided standard accommodation for their pilgrims in 2013 Hajj, but “we are yet to fathom how a whooping N1 billion would have been spent on Niger state pilgrims.”